8 Ways To Get On The Coolest ACC Trips

8 Ways To Get On The Coolest ACC Trips
May 16, 2016 Susan

There are a ton of awesome trips going up on the ACC Calendar all the time, and many people wonder what the secret is to getting on them. The ACC strives to be a welcoming community for members of all skill levels and physical capabilities, and there are a few things the participants can do to help out.

When new ACC members first join, they often wonder how they can get on the great trips they see on the calendar.  As I’ve participated in or led almost 100 ACC events with the Calgary, Edmonton, and Rocky Mountain Sections, I’ve found some common themes that can enable ACC members to get on the trips they want and become more active in the community.

1) Start Small

Ha ling summit shot

ACCers getting to know one another on a Hump Day scramble.

If you haven’t been out on many club events, start out by signing up for easy trips like Rock Rage, Slow & Steady or Hump Day scrambles, cragging days, COP ski nights, gym climbing, etc. so trip coordinators can get to know you.  Many of these events are either first come – first on, or they don’t require much pre-screening, so you’ve got a good chance of getting on even if nobody knows you yet.  Even showing up to check out the monthly section meetings and other social events will help trip coordinators get to know you.

Trip coordinators will want to know participants, even just a little bit, before they commit to a longer or more involved day with someone, and low commitment events are the perfect way for club members to get to know one another.

2) Learn Your Stuff (and Then Practice!)

It takes skills to be a competent trip participant on involved or complex trips, and our Training & Leadership committee does an amazing job of organizing mountain skills courses that range from introductory to advanced.  There are also tons of peer-to-peer learning opportunities, like the “How to Suck Less and Be More Better at….” series, so take advantage of those to hone your skills.

Crevasse Rescue Practice

Ernst Bergmann (one of my early climbing mentors) reviewing crevasse rescue

You might not be ready to lead hard climbs just yet (and that’s ok!), but many leaders really appreciate participants who diligently learn rope-craft, sound belaying techniques, self rescue, and other technical skills to become super-solid-seconds.  Check out the calendar; new courses and training sessions are coming up all the time.





3) Be Useful

Every single member of the team can make a valuable contribution to the success of the trip.  Volunteer to pick up the ropes or other gear, drive for the carpool, carry group gear.  Once you are on

Rope Coiling 2

Coiling the rope just outside the hut

the trip, be the first in line to flake & coil ropes, melt water for drinking, tidy up the hut, and help out with whatever tasks you can do to support the team.

Trip coordinators are all volunteers with limited time and energy, so the more you are willing to share the workload, the more of a welcome sight your name will be on any sign-up list!

4) Let the Coordinator Know About You

If you haven’t been out with the Trip Coordinator before, send them an email about your experience or make a quick phone call to let them know what your experience and capabilities are.  It’s important to be really honest & open about what you can (and cannot) do.  There is often room for a variety of experience levels on a trip, and the more the coordinator knows about your skill set, the better equipped they will be to put together the right team for the objective.

5) Ignore Your Position on the Waitlist (Usually)

For trips that pre-screen participants, your position on the waitlist really doesn’t matter much, if at all.  Trip Coordinators pick participants based on attitude, skill set, previous experience, and how well they think the participants will compliment one another as a team.


Attitude can count for a lot when the weather isn’t cooperating

Personally, I often leave a trip to sit on the calendar for a couple of days or longer before I select the participants.  That way most ACC members have an equal chance to see the trip and sign up.

So, if you see an amazing trip you’d be perfect for, but there are 20 people ahead of you on the wait-list; sign up!  You’ve got a better chance than you might think!

6) Don’t be a Flake

Life happens and sometimes plans change, everybody understands that.  If it turns out you are unable to join a trip you’ve signed up for, let the coordinator know as soon as you can, so they can make alternate arrangements.   They’ll be happy you did, and so will the person who gets your spot on the trip.

If you back out of trips on a regular basis at the very last minute, you might find it harder to get on trips in the future.

7) Ask for a Recommendation

Did you join the ACC because your friends did and then wowed you with amazing stories of ACC adventures?  When you sign up for a trip and the Coordinator asks about your experience, go ahead and name drop some of your most frequent mountain partners that the Coordinator may know.

Summit party

On the summit of Athabasca with friends a few years after we took an ACC introductory course together (well, Luc had actually taught the course)

Did you participate in an introductory program like BITS (for skiing) or STICKSSS (for ice climbing)?  Mention that to prospective trip coordinators; it can go a long way towards helping the coordinator understand your experience.





8) Lead the Coolest Trips Yourself!

I’ve saved the most effective way to get on cool ACC trips for last.  You are 100% guaranteed to get on trips that you coordinate yourself, so become a trip coordinator!  You don’t have to be an extreme alpinist to be an ACC trip leader.  You just have to be comfortable in the terrain you plan to lead trips into.  Do you love scrambling and wish there were more scrambling trips?  Post a scramble!  Do you have an unusual work schedule and wish there were more weekday trips?  Post one!


Me leading on an alpine trip up Aberdeen I organized (because I thought the mountain was cool and wanted to climb it).

If you are intimidated to coordinate a trip all by yourself, or want to go for a great objective you don’t feel comfortable leading, you can enlist some more experienced members to co-lead with you.  Many experienced climbers and skiers in the club would be thrilled to be asked to co-lead a cool trip.  Every spring and fall the Club has trip planning parties, which are the perfect place to meet up with experienced coordinators and potential co-coordinators.



If you have any questions or comments, I’m happy to respond to them in the comments section of this article, or you email our membership chair or section chair. (membership@acccalgary.ca, chair@acccalgary.ca)


I love any kind of climbing (sport, trad, single/multi-pitch, ice, you name it!) and get out whenever I can, but alpine climbing holds a special place in my heart. I have even been seen with skis on from time to time!


  1. Author
    Susan 8 years ago

    Hey Matt,

    To build on your point about fairness, I’d say that it is not so much that group safety “trumps” fairness, but that in fact it is actually quite fair to all participants that the team has the capability to be safe in the mountains. One of the key responsibilities of the trip organizer is to be sure that the group has the right skill set to manage the hazards of a trip, and often the only way a Coordinator can assess potential team member’s abilities is by having been out with them before.

    For trips I organize, I often run some in low objective hazard areas and intentionally choose participants I’ve never climbed with before to give them a chance to get out with new partners. However when the trip gets bigger and more involved, I’m going to be much more selective and have a strong preference for people I’ve been out with in the past. I’ve even described that exact methodology in the trip posts themselves, and think it is quite fair to all involved.

    I love meeting new people that enjoy the mountains as much as I do, and it can take time to build the trust necessary develop a solid climbing partnership. I’m certainly willing to put that time in, and know many others are as well!

  2. Matthew Breakey 8 years ago

    When leading trips, especially any trip with objective hazard (avalanche, rock fall, crevasse, etc), I found vetting very difficult. In the back-country, the group must be prepared to self rescue and as the person on the sharp end, I was the most likely person to need that rescue. For example, the first person on the glacier is the most likely to fall into a crevasse, the person leading a rock pitch is the most likely to take a big fall. Knowing, and having confidence, that the people following me can build a solid glacier anchor, catch a big lead fall, quickly locate someone buried in an avalanche is extremely important to me. There is a reason why wait lists don’t matter, I’m going to first select the participants I have confidence in their ability to complete a self rescue.

    Balancing the addition of new people onto my trips and taking people I have confidence in their abilities to self rescue is hard. I don’t trust phone or email vetting, everyone has different standards. Over the years, I have learned that phrases like, “I’m a black skier” means that they are new to back-country skiing and will likely survive a run, but will struggle when it gets steep, tight or deep. I think the best way to accept unknown people is to have seen their abilities at a skills/practice night or an easy event (gym night, COP skiing, etc).

    If something goes wrong in the back-country, I’m trusting my life to my team-mates abilities to help me out. In my mind, that trumps fairness. In return, I will be as prepared as I can to help them out.

    Getting on cool trips as hard and I think fairly so. Getting the base level of skills to self rescue is not easy. Earning the trust of others is also not easy. The club can do things to facilitate skills training, skills practice/up-keep, and building relationship, which it does. I think articles like this go a long way into articulating why things work as they do and help new members navigate to where they want to go.

  3. Matthew Breakey 8 years ago

    Susan, I added your post to the “Trip Management” category. I did this so it would automatically show up in the “Members Handbook” @ https://www.acccalgary.ca/handbook/. For anyone posting, they can give their post as many categories or tags as they feel appropriate.

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